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Rock Steady

Shhhhhhhhhh....Don't say a word about this to anyone, but Harvard has a pretty good soccer team this year.

You won't repeat it, will you? I mean, no one's supposed to know it because this is supposed to be a rebuilding year, remember? New coach, inexperienced sophomore starters and all that. The team should be something like 2-3 at this point in the season.

Harvard's actual 3-1-1 record should be kept a secret. Don't let on to a soul that Coach George Ford's young team has really won more than it has lost. If you should blurt it out to someone who watched the squad struggle through last season, you most likely will draw a few comments like, "That's a good one." But what if he should actually go and check a game out. The secret would be blown.

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You are, perhaps, at liberty to reveal that Harvard defeated MIT, and maybe Columbia. Beating them seems to be a tradition of sorts around here. But for God's sake don't reveal that the Crimson booters tied the University of Connecticut 1-1 and defeated Cornell 1-0.

After all, both of those teams were nationally ranked when Harvard played them, and in fact UConn still is. The Huskies rated as the number two team in New England this week, but after defeating the number one, Brown, 1-0, on Wednesday, UConn should move to the top of the polls. And a new team such as Harvard's isn't supposed to tie the top team in the region.

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As for Cornell, it was undefeated going into last Saturday's contest with the Crimson. And if anyone should ask, pretend that the Big Red still is. Whatever you do, don't let on that Harvard knocked Cornell from the ranks of the undefeated and also dropped the team from the national rankings where it once held a spot in the top 20.

Ivy League contender? If anyone mentions these words in connection with Harvard soccer, change the subject as quickly as possible. Cornell is a contender, right? And Brown, with stars like Fred Pereira, is still a sure bet to win it all. And Dartmouth will be tough today, and you can never count out Penn, even though the Quakers are now 0-2 in the Ivies. Forget the fact that Harvard is 2-0 in the league.

Most important, don't let members of the team itself know any of this. They might actually start thinking they're really good. They might lose that fighting spirit that comes with being the underdog. Heaven forbid, they might become overconfident!

If the breakfast conversation should turn to goalkeeping, make like you thought it meant hockey then switch the topic to Jim Murray or Tony Esposito or something. If that doesn't work try bringing up Steve Kidder and how good he was for the Harvard soccer squad last year. Avoid talking about Ben Bryan. It might slip out that he has a 0.00 goals--against average in the Ivy League. Or that he has allowed only two goals in five games. Or that he has made 55 saves this season, 24 of which came against UConn.

And if conversation rolls around to the defense, avoid praising Jeff Hargadon and his outstanding play in the left fullback spot. Don't give him a swelled head. Don't let on that fullbacks Ralph Booth and Bob Thompson combined with Hargadon to stop 11 of 18 Cornell shots from reaching the net.

Don't laud Mark Zimering's aggressive, hustling play at center halfback. Or how well captain Steve Mead has converted from fullback to halfback. Or Chris Saunders skills at left halfback.

Try to switch the topic around to the offense. You have a much better chance at being pessimistic here. After all, Harvard has only scored four goals this season. Play up this fact because a non-offensive team like this can't be taken too seriously.

But steer clear of conversing about such players as Lyman Bullard, who although only a sophomore, has shown tremendous skill as an inside forward. Stay away from veterans Steve Hines, Leroy Thompson, or Bob Magee. And don't bring up Eric Zager or Art Faden. If you want to discuss Dave Acorn, do so only in the context that he is now injured.

Be gloomy about this injury. Don't let on that this is the only injury since preseason training camp. Don't leak the fact that no one on the squad has had even a measly pulled muscle since then. Think back to last year, when everyone had some nagging ailment. Acorn's woes are just the beginning, right?

Make sure nobody knows what a good job Ford has done in getting the players in top condition. Conceal how all Ford's work has developed a strong, conditioned team with a grasp of the fundamentals. As a matter of fact, if anyone does mention Ford you should begin a heated argument about national politics or your new Country Squire station wagon.

Remember, if you breath a word of any of Harvard's soccer success this early in the season, you're sure to jinx the squad. Over-confidence will set in, injuries will multiply, opposing coaches will realize that they have to take Harvard seriously, Ford will start taking opponents lightly, and then the team will hit the skids and lose every contest the rest of the season. Loose talk of Harvard's early abilities might have the same effect as a team portrait on the cover of Sports Illustrated. So keep your fat trap shut...I know I will.

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